Eco-Friendly Acne Fighters: Skin Care for the Frugal

While some may notice other body parts first, your face is usually what generates the majority of a first impression. Keeping your face fresh and free of acne, along with wearing a smile, will encourage the desire of others to dig deeper and find out more about you. An eco-friendly skin care routine will help your face continue to have that effect long into the future without negatively affecting your surrounding environment.

Many people desperately buy and try multiple expensive products to get rid of and prevent acne.  If they were to look at the ingredients label, they would find that the active ingredient for many of these products is salicylic acid. This compound can be found in many plants, some of which can be commonly found growing nearby. Salicylic acid affects the skin by shedding excess cell layers, neutralizing bacteria, and cleaning and shrinking pores.

The effect of shrinking and tightening the pores and other bodily tissues is called astringency, and it is important because it blocks harmful bacteria from entering the skin in the future. Salicylic acid is astringent, but so are other plant constituents, like tannins. While many plants contain salicylic acid, or tannins, or sometimes both, not all of them are suitable for use. The content may be too high, or there may be other constituents of the plant that can cause harm, so do not simply use a plant that you know contains one or both of these plant constituents.

Once you find a suitable plant, the easiest and most green method of using it to fight acne is to make a cold infusion of the plant in water. This method does not use electricity or cooking fuel to heat anything, and you will not have to fool around with alcohol or oils to create a base.

Take a container and fill it loosely with the plant. Add water until it covers the plant, cover the container, and place it in an area where it will not be disturbed. A mason jar works best because you can easily see the changing water color through the glass to discover how concentrated your infusion has become. After leaving the container alone for about one day, strain out the plant parts and store your infusion in a spray bottle.

To use your infusion, spray some onto a dry washcloth until well saturated and use it to gently scrub your face. Let it remain on the skin for about thirty seconds to one minute, and then rinse it off. It will be more effective if you open up your pores by rinsing your face with warm to hot water first, then use the room-temperature infusion, and rinse it off with cool water to encourage subsequent pore closure.

If your skin becomes slightly irritated or too dry, you may try diluting the infusion with water, leaving it on the skin for a shorter period of time, or using aloe or moisturizer following use of the infusion. If slight irritation or dryness continues, or if irritation is initially moderate to severe, stop using any product for a few days to allow your skin to normalize, and then try a different plant. If you find that the infusion is not effective, try increasing the frequency of use, or increase the amount of time you allow the plant to soak in the water while making your cold infusion.

Here is a list of plants that you can use to make your own eco-friendly cold infusion and save some money.

  • Yarrow, or Achillea millefolium, has a wide distribution in North America. It is easy to find yarrow seeds for sale online to grow yourself, and once sown yarrow will continue to come back as it is a perennial. Because of the many uses for yarrow, it is well worth having in your yard. Be advised that some develop a sensitivity to sunlight when using yarrow, usually in large amounts. There is also the potential for some people to develop a rash, so you may want to sample it on your wrist before using it on your face or going to great lengths to grow it. If you don’t have a green thumb, yarrow is also available in the bulk herb section of many natural food stores, and can be found for sale as a bulk herb online. It contains both salicylic acid and tannins, along with a number of other plant constituents. Both the leaves and flowers can be used in your cold infusion. If you are growing it yourself, be sure to hang the whole plant up to dry before use so that you will get the most out it.
  • Witch hazel, or Hamamelis Virginiana, contains tannins but not salicylic acid, and it has a smaller number of constituents than yarrow. It can be found in eastern North America. You may be able to grow it, but it is also available for sale as a bulk herb. Both the bark and the leaves can be used in your infusion. It is difficult to find reports of side effects when using witch hazel as an acne medication, and as it is also an anti-inflammatory, it is doubtful that most people would have any. In reference to its use in treating hemorrhoids, it has been reported that some adults may experience minor skin irritation when using it, so you may still want to sample it on your wrist before using it on your face. Witch hazel is what my husband prefers the best in all of the acne fighters he has tried. If you don’t want to grow it, you can buy bottles of it at your local grocery store.
  • Another plant that contains both salicylic acid and tannins is willow, which has many species and sub species. Many are familiar with pussy willow and weeping willow, but white willow, or Salix alba, is the variation that is most commonly referred to when speaking of its medical uses. All varieties contain salicylic acid, but to be sure of what else you are getting, you should use white willow unless you find specific and reputable sources that condone the use of another variety. Willows are widely distributed in North America and beyond. The bark of willow is what you will want to use for your cold infusion. If you cannot find it growing wildly in your area, it is sold as a bulk herb, and is also easy to grow and quick to mature. While it is used in acne medications, possible side effects with such use cannot be found, so in absence of such information, use the same caution in wrist-testing  as witch hazel before using it liberally.

While there are many plants that can be used to treat acne, these three are both the most commonly used and easiest to find, with additional uses aside from the treatment of acne. Once you find that one or more of these plants work for you, you may be able to grow them in your own yard, which will save you more money and give you the opportunity to use organic growing methods to further lessen your impact on the environment.

*Please be advised that while this information can help you to fight and prevent acne, it may not be suitable for your particular skin type, especially if your acne is severe. If that is the case, you should see your doctor, and can also consult a certified herbalist in your area for local and natural skin-care options.

So, have you had skin issues in the past? What kinds of remedies have you found work well?


Eco-Friendly Acne Fighters: Skin Care for the Frugal — 10 Comments

  1. I’m lucky to have pretty good skin for the most part (except during adolescence, of course).

    I think choosing low glycemic index foods may be a good idea as well to prevent inflammation, what do you think?

    • That might very well work. I know some people who have made diet changes and their skin clears right up. I guess it depends on what the issue is to begin with. Not everyone’s acne is a result of diet.

      I too have been lucky with having good skin. I feel so bad for some who have such difficulty.

  2. I have horrible skin and a very sensitive one too. I have not used any of the above but I have used others (depending on the season and the severity of the acne) – neem leaves, turmeric, sandal wood paste, fenugreek paste with yogurt and chickpea flour. Some of these (like neem leaves and pure sandal wood) you can’t get here, I buy them in India and use them here. I have seen them in the Indian grocery store here just not sure if they will have the same effect after being stored by however they are storing it.

    • Sound like some cool remedies. I hope some of them have worked for you. Strange you can’t get neem leaves. I can get them here. I think storage is probably fine. I find some potent natural stuff like that can last a really long time so if your Indian grocer has some, buy it there.

  3. I did not realize the constituents of willow. That’s very interesting. Most people are just so conditioned to go to their pharmacies that many don’t think about how these products are actually made. This reminds me of when I toured the Monsanto facility years ago and was surprised by the processes they when through to deliver their products.

  4. Great article! I’ve bookmarked it in my browser. While I don’t have many problems iwth ache, my son does…

    thanks for the great analysis…

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